Anxiety Regulation – Emotional Weightlifting

In October we were blessed/given a family retreat with Ken Howard as the primary speaker.  Every session was packed with immediately applicable wisdom.  One meaningful takeaway was the difference between anxiety tolerance and anxiety reduction.  Anxiety tolerance focuses on building strength to cope with life’s challenges; anxiety reduction focuses on getting out from under the stress as quickly and easily as possible, often with pleasure or entertainment as a diversion.  (See Craig’s notes from the talk below.)

Wow, do I love this concept.  At times I would rather flee or mask stress, but in the big  picture of life, I want to learn to bear more weight.  (I also want to be honest when I am at capacity until I can learn to lift more.)  As a parent, I want to help my children learn to bear life’s loads.  Hopefully, they will learn to cast their anxieties on Jesus because they are secure in His love.  Kids who will grow up to go a little further, love a little more, try when it’s easier not to.  I think I can, I think I can . . . people.

The dailiness of decisions:

Is this child able to navigate disappointment/displeasure with parental caring but non-intervention?  Yep, she was, and she came to a solution we couldn’t have imagined.

Ok, a child in the mall running pit called my wee one a monster; no parental intervention is ensuing to correct the name caller.  I have the ability to “parent” the wrongness, boy do I, but my child will face these moments without me.  I decide to parent her; she’s the one that is my responsibility.  Clarity of my responsibility gave the energy to help her learn how to face meanness.  Unkindness may always create anxiety, but she can learn to bear up under it rather than crumble if no one is there to intervene on her behalf.

The soccer team just learned to head.  Our guy is on the team with the understanding that he cannot head the ball.  (Two concussions have left us with the necessity of extra head care.)  Today he threw the ball to his teammates.  Bummer to him, but he learned to be a man of his word even when he rather not.  He’s lifting character muscles.

“Can I watch it, Daddy?”  Of course, he’s stamping Christmas cards, and if that’s entertaining, go for it!  Mica decided that she wanted her baby table to do her work.  The occupational therapist who has recently assessed her advised us to reduce her usage of markers; they are easy to colour with, and encourage crayon colouring because it’s harder work, her fingers will gain strength.  So I set up her tray table for her art, but she balked at the colours.  She wanted “Two colours.”  Smart girl thought she could get the crayons and the markers.  Disappointment.  Craig acknowledged, “You want the markers because they are easier, but you can strengthen your hands and have fun with the colours.”  Simple affirmation; this is hard.

I think I need that sometimes.  Simple affirmation; this is hard.  You want life to be easier, but you can strengthen your heart to carry the load of this season.  Anxiety tolerance.  Prior to Mica’s coming I lifted weights, so I would be ready to carry her.  Once I exceeded her weight, I wasn’t motivated to push myself to continue lifting more – no need.  I wonder if I haven’t done that in life.

 Cast all your anxiety on him(A) because he cares for you.(B)

Be alert and of sober mind.(C) Your enemy the devil prowls around(D) like a roaring lion(E) looking for someone to devour. Resist him,(F) standing firm in the faith,(G)because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.(H)

10 And the God of all grace, who called you(I) to his eternal glory(J) in Christ, after you have suffered a little while,(K) will himself restore you and make you strong,(L) firm and steadfast.  1 Peter 5:7-10

Anxiety Tolerance                                                         

  • Asks what is right and good?
  • Doctor/trainer
  • Go to the social/emotional gym
  • Takes a longer time than reduction
  • Healing of the origin of the problem
  • Lifting weights; willingness to gets under the weight
  • Builds internal support mechanisms to self soothe instead of the external supports of sex/porn, food, alcohol, drugs
  • Tells another “That is a real problem.  How are you going to solve that?”
  • Coaching moves through proper form to lift.  How are you responding to the stressors- not just talk about the stressors?  Character the focus and bearing up under life.
  • To miss this creates people who are anxiety adverse
  • Increases capacity to attend to challenges
  • Increased capacity to metabolize problems
  • Steam shower – tolerating the heat from 100 to 150
  • Identify the weight of life that you or another can manage. (This is not comparable to age.)

 Anxiety Reduction

  • Asks What looks good?  What feels good?
  • Example: A person worried about weight and goes out to buy new clothes rather than attending to food and exercise.
  • Reactivity
  • “Let’s just get rid of the weight.”
  • Rather than letting another work through a problem, they say, “oh, give me that!”
  • Flooded when others need you.  Live in an emotional toxic goo that becomes physiologically manifested in sleep, weight, ulcers, mental health, heart problems, etc.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:29-30 ESV)

Today I was working through the stack of randomly chosen library books, and I realized

tells a child’s version of learning to walk with worry.  Whew, I needed that!

One thought on “Anxiety Regulation – Emotional Weightlifting

  1. Ellen, this is fantastic. This speaks directly to what I’ve been “working on” and sorting through – especially the “identifying the weight of life that I can manage.” Great wisdom. I’ve been focussing on “training myself for Godliness.” Training, training, training! I want stamina and endurance and it takes training, effort and work. And I LOVE knowing you lifted weights in preparation for carrying Mica! I actually used to look at those early pictures of you with her in your arms and think to myself – she is so strong! That would kill my back! Bravo to you!! Thank you for sharing what you learned!! xoxo


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